Report: Low-fat diets may increase risk of heart disease
August 21, 1997
Web posted at: 3:08 p.m. EDT (1908 GMT)
BOSTON (CNN) -- A low-fat diet may increase the risk of
coronary heart disease by reducing the amount of "good"
cholesterol in the bloodstream, a group of doctors said in
this week's New England Journal of Medicine.
The doctors reached their conclusions after analyzing
common dietary advice that suggests replacing foods high
in total or saturated fat and cholesterol with
high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice and
"One of the problems with a low-fat diet is that it actually
drives down the good cholesterol -- the HDL -- in our blood
(and that) ... will probably increase the risk
of heart disease," said Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard
School of Public Health, who contributed to the article.
The report said high-carbohydrate diets result in the
lowering of bad cholesterol, known as LDL, as well as the
body's much-needed HDL cholesterol levels.
"Diets that lower HDL cholesterol levels must be viewed with
concern," the doctors wrote.
If a person wants to lose weight, Willett and his colleagues
suggest reducing consumption of fat from dairy
products, meats and partially hydrogenated oils and eat less
sugar and highly refined starch.
They also recommend replacing saturated fats with oils high
in monounsaturated fats such as olive oils.
"The experience in Mediterranean countries shows that diets
high in monounsaturated fats can be attractive and that they
are associated with longevity and a low incidence of coronary
disease and cancer," the doctors wrote.
The report also emphasizes the need for exercise, stressing
that Japanese and Chinese populations have low-fat diets and
low rates of heart disease primarily because of their active lifestyles.
"The low rates of coronary heart disease in the Chinese and
other rural populations may therefore be due to largely high
levels of physical activity and low body fat," it said.
Correspondent Holly Firfer contributed to this report.